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Toronto's new housing plan: what you need to know


Last week, Councillor Carroll joined Mayor Tory and four other councillors to announce the City's new housing initiative dubbed "Housing Now."


Housing Now is a plan to use surplus, city-owned land to develop affordable housing and mixed-income communities. These are large stretches of public land no longer needed by the City, posing a perfect opportunity to optimize it for housing.


The program may be new, but the concept isn't – using public lands to build housing is a well-known strategy that has been used in cities such as London, New York, Vancouver and Montreal to build strong communities with quality, affordable housing.


This is a major step that will create thousands of different types of housing to meet demand – but it is only the start of a lengthy process.


To get the ball rolling, City Staff identified 11 properties as potential sites for the program. One of the sites is in our ward at 251 Esther Shiner Boulevard. This is a pivotal area in our riding, just steps from the Leslie subway and Oriole GO stations, and directly across the street from North York General Hospital.

Mayor Tory speaking to media about the Housing Now initiative last week


Affordable vs Social Housing


Before I get into more detail about the site itself, it's important to identify what is meant by affordable housing. The terms "affordable housing" and "social housing" are often used interchangeably – but they are not the same thing.


Affordable housing is officially defined as anything that is at or below average market rent. While average market rent is arguably not remotely affordable for most Torontonians, many projects set up to include affordable housing require builders to provide a range from affordable meaning average, all the way to ‘deeply affordable’ which can be quite a bit below average.


Social housing is specifically housing that is subsidized by a level of government, such as Toronto Community Housing (TCH). Here the rent is subsidized according to the income of the tenant. If the tenant gets a job, they may stay but the rent subsidy is reduced as the tenant’s income grows. While we have two TCH social housing revitalization projects underway in our ward at Allenbury Gardens and the Villaways, that is not what is being proposed for the site at Esther Shiner.


Affordable housing guarantees rents for all sorts of fully employed workers such as personal support workers, secretaries and even such middle-class jobs as nurses. In the current market, even these Torontonians struggle to live and work in the same city. Housing Now targets exactly this demographic.


Vision


A key focus of this past municipal election was the demand for affordable housing in our city, and Don Valley North is no exception. As one of Toronto's fastest growing communities, we hear from residents regularly about the urgent need for connected, affordable housing located along transit lines.


The space at Esther Shiner ticks all those boxes – it's an 8.5-acre lot close to transit and a hospital that is a huge local employer looking to expand.

The 8.5-acre surplus land at 251 Esther Shiner Blvd.


While specific details about the plans for this site will not be proposed for a few months, the opportunity here is clear. Councillor Carroll will advocate strongly for a partnership with North York General Hospital. We all want to see a community that is close to transit, employment, strong services, shopping for the hardest working families but Councillor Carroll has also told the Mayor that she is hoping for a component of this project to be dedicated to helping our local hospital improve its capacity to serve us.


It is understood that even Affordable Housing applicants to go through the same detailed process of approval with our Chief City Planner so that our standards for built form and accompanying infrastructure requirements are not compromised.


What's next


Thankfully, the rest of City Council is on board with Housing Now. Today, Council voted unanimously to request that City Staff expedite their action plan for this initiative. Staff will also urgently meet with federal and provincial government officials as well as private and not-for-profit housing organizations to discuss how to fund the program.


There is an extensive amount of work to be done on this plan before we see shovels in the ground. Rest assured, Councillor Carroll and our team will not keep you in the dark - there will be ongoing public engagement and consultation throughout the entire process, and we will keep you updated every step of the way.


During the municipal campaign we heard from many residents about their vision for our community. Housing Now is a step in the right direction to build successful, connected and affordable neighbourhoods in Don Valley North and across Toronto.

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